Essential ingredients of PD

What makes for effective teacher development

Happy day-after-valentines day ❤️

This week, we’re diving into a new series on effective professional development. Maximum romance, I know…

PS. If you didn’t get last week’s email, check your junk folder, drag it into your inbox, and add me to your contacts… to ensure I don’t end up there again!

Big idea 🍉

Getting better as a teacher (or helping others to get better) is not an easy task. This is due to things like the paradox of expertise, the knowing-doing gap, and habit inertia.

To give ourselves the greatest chance of success, we must invest heavily in 'what works' when it comes to professional development (PD) and ignore almost everything else.

So, what works? Instructional coaching, learning communities, or lesson study?

Well, it actually doesn’t make a lot of sense to ask whether things like instructional coaching are effective. It's like asking if a burger is healthy. It depends on what they contain.

Like a burger, any PD is only as good as its ingredients.

And so, here are the 6 essential ingredients of effective PD. If any of these are absent, change is unlikely to happen:

  1. GET IT → Helping teachers to develop an understanding of the science of teaching and learning.

  2. SEE IT → Helping teachers to develop a bank of strategies of what the science looks like in practice.

  3. TRY IT → Engaging in rehearsal to help teachers contextualise these strategies for their subject(s), students, and selves.

  4. KEEP IT → Helping teachers to build fluency in these strategies and embed them in the routines of their work.

  5. FIT IT → Tailoring development to the contexts and needs of teachers and, where possible, their teams and schools.

  6. OWN IT → Motivating teachers to invest effort in all these processes and follow through with any commitments they make.

GET IT and SEE IT can be done in either order, but both must come before TRY IT, which must come before KEEP IT. FIT IT and OWN IT should be considered before and throughout the PD experience.

The 'IT' in each case refers to the content of each activity. And so, while the nature of these ingredients is generic for all teachers, their content should be specific to the subject, age range, or even culture each teacher operates in.

This is how we end up building the domain-specific knowledge necessary for expert teaching.


  • To get better as a teacher (or help others get better), we must ensure that 6 ‘essential ingredients’ are present in our PD.

  • These are: understanding the science, seeing examples of practice, engaging in rehearsal, building habits, tailoring to individual needs, and securing motivation.

For more links and double the updates (on emerging models of ‘executive function’, the impact on headteacher wellbeing during COVID-19, and the role of teacher turnover and ‘looping’ on student outcomes), sign up to Snacks PRO → join here

Treat yourself to a burger—you deserve it.

x Peps 👊